Does This Story Make Me Look Fat?

We are the worst judges of our own work.

The author of a work is biased in so many ways it boggles the mind. Whether one is burdened with chronic overconfidence or chronic self-doubt, any self-assessment will be skewed.

Because it is impossible for the author to see the story with fresh eyes, the opportunities for distortion are abundant.ย The end product is the final version of multiple versions. It becomes easy to mentally merge the multiple versions of what we wrote into a single, coherent version that is only what we think we are reading and not actually what we wrote.

The author may gauge the final product in comparison to the original concept, the first draft, his or her previous work, or to some benchmark of excellence imagined, but not realized. In all of these instances, our work may be better or worse than it seems to us.

Further, as the author of the work, you can not accurately know whether your plot twists and surprise endings will have the effect you desire. Unless you have a severe short-term memory problem, you won’t be able to surprise yourself with an ending you yourself conceived and wrote.

It is imperative to get fresh eyes on your work. Friends and family are often the first recourse, but hopefully not the only or final one. Really, it’s nice if a friend or loved one will bother to tell you that you have a sock stuck to your head before you go out the door to work, but it may get dicey if they start telling you how to do your job.

Beta readers can be very helpful if you choose wisely. The problem with choosing beta readers is a bit the same as evaluating your own workโ€”you can end up blind-sided by selection bias. It’s always tempting to listen to those who are likely to say what we’d prefer to hear. If you are not careful, you can end up with a cadre of yes-men.

Even when that is not the case, there are multiple factors at play that can determine how your work is received by any given reader. If people can be counted on for one thing, it is their inconsistency. A reader’s opinion of your work can be influenced by everything from the environment in which they read it to the mood they were in when they did so.

Remember this is true of any person who reads your book. What makes beta readers valuable is not that they alone can give an objective opinion of the quality of your work, but that they represent a microcosm of your wider reading audience.

Whether you are happy or unhappy with your work says less about how “good” it is than what others can tell you. When they do so, don’t rationalize or equivocate. Listen. Learn. Decide what to do (or not do) and act upon it.

The particulars mean very little. Tastes vary. Some will love it, some will hate it. There won’t be a consensus. You cannot please everybody. What you can get and need to know is how, on the whole, the story is received. You need someone else to tell you.

All this has been said before and more eloquently. The reason I bring it up again is that I am seeing a lot of books I can hardly believe have been proofread, let alone beta-read or edited. This is one of the very basic steps. Don’t go out that door with a sock stuck to your head.

Author: Stephen Hise

Stephen Hise is the Evil Mastermind and co-administrator of Indies Unlimited. Hise is an independent author and an avid supporter of the indie author movement. Learn more about Stephen at his website or his Amazon author page.

18 thoughts on “Does This Story Make Me Look Fat?”

  1. The ‘chronic self-doubt’ resonates with me. I so often feel like a fraud, a pretender. I absolutely rely on my critique partners, my beta readers and my editor to keep my head on relatively straight.

  2. A sock stuck to your head……..I think that’s a story in itself. LOL!!!
    My multiple drafts mostly never match each other. It’s like one story branching out into a series of stories. When I’m finally done, the final draft at times feels different, not actually what I intended and after so many revisions the story loses its charm and eventually bores me to death.
    I just have to step away from my writing and give it some much needed space and fresh air.

  3. Well said, Evil Mastermind. I hope this post gets shared throughout the industry, because newbies aren’t the only ones guilty of not having someone else look at their work before it’s published. And that does EVERYONE a disservice.

  4. I would like to have copies made of this post, and then I would like to have them stapled to the foreheads of everybody who has ever thought about publishing their work. Yes, stapled! Because then maybe they would *pay attention*! ๐Ÿ˜€

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